We know that a diagnosis of cancer can be devastating and overwhelming. That is why we take the time at your initial consultation to go over all of the treatment options, goals of treatment,prognosis, side effects of treatment, and to answer any other questions you may have. Below are some Frequently Asked Questions about cancer and treatment.
What is cancer?
Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. There are many different types of cancer that have different behaviors such as how they invade into surrounding tissues or spread through the body. While some cancers may not be curable, many are treatable with early diagnosis.
Will my pet be sick with chemotherapy?
Our goal with treatment is to ensure our patients maintain a good quality of life while undergoing cancer treatment. Most animals tolerate chemotherapy very well compared to humans. If a patient has a side effect from chemotherapy, we often reduce the dose the next time so it doesn’t happen again.
What side effects will I see if my pet is treated with chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy kills rapidly dividing cells, which are the cancer cells, however, normal cells in the body such as the gastrointestinal tract and bone marrow are also rapidly dividing and therefore be affected. Gastrointestinal side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite, these are typically self-limiting and can be managed with at home medications. Bone marrow suppression decreases their white blood cell count predisposing them to an infection which clinically presents as lethargy and/or fever. We monitor their blood work closely throughout treatment and prescribe appropriate medications if side effects occur.
Will my pet lose their hair?
Cats and most dogs will not lose their hair during chemotherapy treatment. Only pets with true hair, not fur, such as those that need to be groomed regularly will lose some of their hair. Cats and dogs will lose their whiskers. Upon completion of the chemotherapy protocol, their hair will start to grow back.
How is chemotherapy given?
It depends on the chemotherapy drug that is chosen based on the type of cancer, but they are either administered by injection into a vein or by mouth in a treat.
What is radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy is commonly done by a machine called a linear accelerator which produces x-ray beams that are directed at the tumor. It is commonly used to treat tumors in the surgically inaccessible locations or other areas where residual tumor cells are still present after surgery. If your pet needs radiation therapy, we would refer you to a board-certified radiation oncologist that we work closely with for the treatments.
What is palliative care?
Palliative care is meant to improve your pet’s quality of life by preventing and treating the symptoms and side effects of their cancer and its treatment. Palliative care is given throughout your pet’s experience with cancer, beginning at diagnosis and continuing during treatment, follow-up care, and the end of life.